Opinion

Editorial: Whidbey General Hospital needs more firepower as election nears

Whidbey General Hospital CEO Tom Tomasino is doing an excellent job in trying to sell the $50 million hospital improvement project to the people. Tomasino knows his stuff, impresses listeners such as those who attended the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week, and probably leaves most thinking that the expansion project is a necessary one for future health care on Whidbey Island.

However, Tomasino’ one-man sales show alone may not persuade voters to mark the “yes” box on their mail-in ballot in May. The guy needs some help. To our knowledge, there isn’t one “Vote WGH” sign along any road or in any yard in the county. When a group wants to hear about the hospital proposal, they hear from  Tomasino.

Hospital supporters have to get with it. Form a “Yes on Hospital Bonds” committee, such as every school district on the island does when a levy or bond needs to be supported. Make the issue dominate the public discussion over the next two months. Put you signs, start phone banks to call people, inform them and answer questions. Create a speaker’s panel that includes long-time hospital workers, not just administrators in suits and ties. When a nurse tells a crowd about the substandard conditions at the present Whidbey General Hospital, built some 40 years ago, the audience will listen. When a surgeon speaks of the hospital’s needs, people will remember what he or she has to say.

Whidbey General Hospital provides a vital service to the entire island, including the Navy base which uses it more than ever, particularly for emergency services. Unfortunately, other hospitals in the area are passing us by. Anacortes, Mount Vernon and Everett have all undergone major remodels, and of course there are outstanding medical services available in Everett and Seattle.

Whidbey General won’t be able to compete with the big boys with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, but we afford a modern facility with up-to-date equipment that is pleasant for patients and employees alike. All we need is a lot more people willing to help CEO Tomasino spread the world. Don’t assume the bond issue will pass just because it’s for heath care. In this economy, it take a huge team effort to make any taxpayer-funded project successful. Give Trish Rose, hospital public relations director, a call at 678-7656, ext. 3350. She knows the law relating to promoting elections, what non-profits can and cannot do, and what kind of help the hospital needs to make this issue succeed. And don’t dawdle. There is absolutely no time to waste.

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